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Worrell v. A Woman's View, P.A.

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

February 4, 2019




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss (#2). Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in October 2018 in state court, and defendants timely removed to this Court. Inasmuch as plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court issued a Roseboro Order (#4) in response to the present motion advising plaintiff of her right to respond or risk dismissal with prejudice. Plaintiff has responded, and defendants have since replied.

         This matter involves claims for tortious interference with contractual relationship and interference with prospective economic advantage based on defendants' proffer of allegedly unfavorable information to a hospital credentialing committee. Defendants have moved to dismiss both claims in accordance with Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that (1) the three-year statute of limitation has passed and (2) state law protections regarding hospital credentialing committees preclude plaintiff from obtaining the information she needs to prove her claims.

         After independent review of the removed Complaint[1], defendants' motion, and all related filings, the Court concurs in defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) argument and enters the following findings, conclusions, and Order dismissing this action.


         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff, a physician, worked for A Woman's View, P.A. from April 2013 to June 2015. Around the end of January 2015, the owners of A Woman's View decided not to renew plaintiff's contract with the practice. It was agreed, at plaintiff's request, that she could remain employed at A Woman's View through the remainder of the school year, or mid-June 2015. Meanwhile, plaintiff continued performing labor, delivery, and C-sections services for patients at the practice. In May 2015, plaintiff received a job offer from WellStar Healthcare in Atlanta, where she was scheduled to begin employment in the first half of August 2015. Plaintiff applied for both her State of Georgia Medical License and hospital credentialing in May 2015, which required information from her previous employer, defendants.

         Plaintiff could not begin the position with WellStar Healthcare in August 2015 because she was unable to get the requisite credentialing. At an unspecified point in time, plaintiff asked defendants whether they had caused a problem with her credentialing. Defendants responded on October 6, 2015-after the alleged problems with credentialing occurred-that they had previously submitted answers that reflected that she lacked skills and abilities surrounding her job. Plaintiff voluntarily resigned from the offered job so that a “denial of credentialing” would not be a part of her record. Plaintiff alleges that defendants' response to her credentialing application has caused her to suffer various damages.

         II. Standard of Review Under Rule 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to eliminate claims that are factually or legally insufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a pleading must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). In making this determination, “a court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable” to the plaintiff, but does not consider “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Nemet Chevrolet Ltd. v., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         Although the truth of all plausible facts alleged is assumed, a court “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Eastern Shore Mkts. Inc. v. J.D. Assocs., LLP, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). If plaintiff's claims are plausible, the complaint survives a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), regardless of whether there is a more plausible alternative explanation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (“[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.”).

         In sum, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper “when on its face the complaint reveals either no law supports the plaintiff's claim or the absence of fact sufficient to make a good claim, or when some fact disclosed in the complaint necessarily defeats the plaintiff's claim.” Esancy v. Quinn, No. 5:05-CV-26, 2006 WL 322607, at *3 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 10, 2006) (quoting Andrews v. Elliot, 109 N.C.App. 271, 274 (1993)). Finally, in applying these standards, the Court has kept in mind its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings of a pro se litigant.

         When considering whether an action is time barred, the statute of limitations “is an affirmative defense, which can be the basis of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Dickinson v. Univ. of N. Carolina, 91 F.Supp.3d 755, 763 (M.D. N.C. 2015) (citing Dean v. Pilgrim's Pride Corp., 395 F.3d 471, 474 (4th Cir. 2005)). In considering the statute of limitations defense at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage of litigation, the Court remains mindful that “the burden of proving an affirmative defense rests with a defendant, ” and that “all facts necessary to show the time bar must clearly appear ‘on the face of the complaint.'” Id. (quoting Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494 F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007)).

         III. ...

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